How To Paint A Colorful Abstract Wall Mural

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Last week we showed you how most of our daughter’s room has come together so far, and today we’ve got all the details about one wall that you didn’t see.


similar dresser | dresser pulls | similar lamp | mirror | similar hamper | fan | gold frames

We’re giving it its own post because it was one of the most fun and impactful painting projects we’ve done in a while. And it was extremely budget-friendly too.

pendant light | curtains | curtain rod & rings |similar lamprug | gold frames| mirror

As you saw in last week’s post, we were able to vault the ceilings in this room (this was not a structural change – the roof always sloped like this, we just removed what was essentially a drywall drop-ceiling and extended this room up where a formerly empty attic space was – adding insulation behind the plank & beams that follow the roofline). This one change made the room feel much more spacious and enabled us to do things like hanging this woven pendant that our daughter picked out.

pendant light | curtains | curtain rod & rings | rug | bed frame | quilt | nightstand 

Just because we love this before & after so much, here’s a reminder of what the room looked like when we bought this house (before we vaulted the ceiling, redid the floors, and unified everything with a fresh coat of paint).

One side effect of vaulting the ceilings was that it left us with a situation that we’ve never really encountered before: a big blank 10 foot tall wall on the other side of the room. We’ve always had standard 8 foot ceilings in all of our houses (apart from the first floor of the beach house that was 9′ tall). So we haven’t had much practice in making visual sense of such a tall “canvas” – but we were excited to give something colorful a try.

Long before we had moved (back in 2019) we snapped this picture of an accent wall at a Richmond restaurant called Organic Krush (we looked into the artist so we could shout him out here, and his name is Eli McMullen and he’s extremely talented). We all loved it, including our daughter, so we sort of mentally flagged it as a “maybe someday” project idea.

So when we were all talking about this big ol’ blank wall situation in her room a few weeks ago, we dug this photo up from waaaaay back in our phone’s camera roll and BOOM. End of discussion. This is what she wanted to use as inspiration, no hesitation, no question. Can I say I envied her decisiveness?

Then we just had to figure out how to recreate it. So here’s what we did.

Mock It Up

First we wanted to make sure the pattern translated naturally to the dimensions of her wall, so we opened a photo of her blank wall and the inspiration picture in Photoshop and did a rough overlay of the mural (after editing out the plugs & the plant in the inspiration photo) – just to make sure we didn’t need to extend or reshape any of the color blocks too dramatically. Luckily it fit almost exactly as it was!

This mock-up overlay step may be unnecessary for you – especially depending on how much you’re trying to adhere to your inspiration. We weren’t married to making every curve exactly the same (that’s the beauty of an irregular pattern like this) and while we were aiming for similar colors (with our daughter at the helm of the selection process), she ended up shifting a few of them. So in the end, this might not have been something we needed to do – it was just a nice guideline, and it certainly didn’t hurt to have this to map our design onto the wall, which brings us to our next step.

Trace Your Design Onto The Wall

A popular technique for transferring a design like this to your wall is to use a projector (like we did for this teachers’ lounge project) but we didn’t have a projector handy – and again, we were just going for “similar” and not “exactly identical.” So we used an older but still pretty reliable method: we overlayed a grid onto our mock-up (each square being 1ft) and used that as a guide for roughly where each stripe terminates into the side walls, ceiling, or floor.

Please know that I reveled in the dad-ness of getting to show our daughter how math & grids & scale have real world applications like this.

Anyway after we marked those end points we connected them by drawing the rough shape of each curve onto the wall with a pencil. You can see in the picture above that it’s still pretty imprecise (wiggly) at this point, but that’s totally okay with a design like this. Just be sure to step back and check that you like the general spacing/size/shape of each stripe. If you don’t, just erase that line and try again.

Choose Your Colors

To pick our paint colors, Sherry broke out a few paint decks with our daughter & they considered a variety of swatch combinations until we had final approval from our lead designer (aka: our 10-year-old). My tip here would be to try to end up with colors that work well together and that also play nicely with other colors in the room, even if it means straying from your inspiration a little (or a lot – this would totally work with a completely different color palette if that suits you or your child’s fancy).

We actually ended up choosing lots of colors that were on the same swatch card (just moving up or down to go darker or lighter) which is always a pretty no-brainer way to be sure that a few tones will look good together. Since I know that’s little hard to read up there, here’s a list of the colors we landed on:

  • Ebbtide (SW6493)
  • Stream (SW6499)
  • Snowdrop (SW6511)
  • Feather White (SW6616)
  • Blushing (SW6617)
  • Lotus Flower (SW6310)
  • Memorable Rose (SW6311)

You can see them all labeled in the graphic below:

All of the colors are Sherwin Williams colors, so the next step was picking up sample quarts of each one. That’s the smallest size Sherwin Williams sells, but we definitely could’ve gotten by with those even smaller test pots for some of the smaller stripes if they had sold those. So if you’re using another paint brand, it likely could be even cheaper – but it was only about $50 in paint for us (even when buying 7 quarts) thanks to using Shavonda’s $15 code at the end of this post (we were buying some other paint for another project which put us over the $75 spend minimum for the coupon).

Paint Your First Set Of Stripes… Roughly

A mural like this takes some patience because you have to let each color completely dry before painting the one next to it, otherwise you risk bleeding or unwanted mixing of your adjacent colors. So the most efficient way to approach this is to paint alternating stripes. So for instance, we started by doing these three first (with the help of our trusty 10-year-old painting assistant). Note that following the lines exactly is not necessary at all in this phase. You’ll see why in a minute.

As I mentioned above, with these first “base” stripes we weren’t worried about getting our edges perfectly crispy. In fact, we intentionally rolled OVER our pencil lines a few inches so that we were sure not to end up with any white peeking through the color transitions in the end.

Each stripe got two coats and we stored our brushes and rollers in plastic bags after we were done, just in case we needed to go back and do any touch-ups later (spoiler alert: that was extremely helpful).

Paint Your Next Set Of Stripes… Carefully

Ok, so after your alternating “base stripes” have received two coats of paint and are fully dry, here’s where you have to start using a steady hand to paint crisp borders between your two colors, which will lead to the clean curves you’re going for. We used that small stripe of light peach (Feather White) as our practice stripe, since we had to get it painted twice & fully dried before we moved on to any other colors anyways.

Then we moved onto the last three alternating stripes that remained to complete the mural. Using our favorite short-handled paintbrush (the same one that we always use for cutting in & painting trim) we “edged” the curve between our two colors. This part is definitely more art than science, especially since we had painted over our pencil lines at this point.

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The good news is that if you don’t like something, you can just try, try again. Here are a few things that we discovered were helpful:

  • Aim for long strokes, even if your brush starts to run low on paint. Your curves will be less wiggly than trying to do a bunch of shorter connected dashes if that makes sense. You can always add more paint after you’ve gotten your curve right.
  • Don’t use a lot of pressure or a lot of paint. This can lead to a raised bead or ridge of paint along your edge. If you get one, just carefully feather it out with short vertical strokes (effectively brushing it up or down, away from the edge).
  • Go slow, be patient with yourself, and be willing to let your design evolve along the way. We certainly did!

Once you’ve got the first coat of your edges done, then you can go back and fill in the rest. We used some small 6″ rollers since we were doing relatively small areas.

Remember that things will probably take two coats – especially the darker colors and where two colors overlap – so the second time around your task will be to carefully follow your own edges. But frankly, we found that easier because at least you’ve already figured out your curves.

Step Back & Adjust As Needed

Once your second coat is done on everything, you may be done. But it’s always good to step back and take one last look at everything. Our daughter thought the dark blue circle was looking too much like a big blue sun just barely peeking out in the corner, so we took some artistic license and repainted the top edge so that it curved out and was a lot less ball-like, and then we all liked it even better.

Again, you may not need to this, but we were glad we had kept our brushes in ziplock bags throughout this process so it was easy to subtly adjust some of the sections. This is also why it’s good to minimize those “ridges” along the edges, since they might give away places where you originally painted your line but later shifted things a bit.

Overall I think it probably took us around 3 hours of real working time, but it was spread across 2.5 days since there was a lot of time spent letting certain stripes dry before moving on to the next sections. But it was well worth it because it was exactly what the wall needed and our daughter is thrilled with the final result.

similar dresser | dresser pulls | similar lamp | mirror | similar hamper | fan | gold frames

It makes so much sense of that big wall without us having to rely on some big gallery wall or too-tall, inaccessible bookshelf situation to fill it in.

similar dresser | dresser pulls | similar lamp | mirror | similar hamper | fan | gold frames

So now you’ve seen the wall that we not-so-subtly hid from you last week.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Colorful-Wall-Mural-After-Dresser-Straight-681x1024.jpg
similar dresser | dresser pulls | similar lamp | mirror | similar hamper | fan | gold frames

Although I say that and we still have one other little project in here that we’re excited to show you guys in a week or two (not quite finished yet).

curtains | curtain rod & rings | rug | mirror | gold frames | paint: SW Pure White

There I go again being not so subtle. Apparently I can’t help myself.

P.S. To follow along with our entire reno of this house, you can see every single update we’ve made right here in this FL House archive.

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